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Published: January 21st 2019
Morning Two, Berlin
Sleet welcomes us as we leave the hotel to find breakfast in our local Kamps Backstube (Bakeroom ...... it’s like a Greggs).
We resolve to buy a underbahn day ticket and keep dry as we explore.
So it’s a trip to Kurfürstendamm on the subway (another high street, more like a Champs Élysées boulevard than Freidrichstrße), mostly travelling overground with views of the south of Tiergarten. Our destination is the Käthe Kollwitz Museum on Fasanstraße.
The gallery is a substantial townhouse in this well to do district. It’s setting is somewhat at odds with the art works’ subject exhibited within. When KK arrived in 1891 the area was dominated by working class tenements, brothels and a scene of overpopulation. Berlin is said to have had the biggest population explosion of any European city in the time of the Industrial Revolution and many families were starving. She started to document the lives of working people around her using lithography, sculpture and other media to broadcast her concerns about the austerity she witnessed to the world, through exhibitions at the Prussian Academy of Arts and within the Secessionist movement. Sociocritical work, its power is reinforced by her reaction to family deaths in both first and second world wars ...... a majority of her later paintings show ‘Death’ represented in different ways but ever present in the scenarios depicted, e.g. ‘Mother with Dead Son’ which has been displayed at the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of WR and Dictatorship since 1993.
There were limestone slabs displayed on the top floor with original KK greasy crayon drawings executed in reverse. To print, the slabs are sponged with water, then rolled with greasy ink. The ink sticks to the crayon but not the wet limestone. When placed against paper and put under weight in a press, the ink transfers to paper with subtlety and faithfulness to the original.
Then a mid morning coffee in ‘Surf and Turf’ on Bleibtreustraße followed by an underbahn ride to the top of Kurfürstendamm and the Kaiser Wilhelm Kirche. This was bombed heavily in WW2 leaving only some ragged remnants of the church’s bell tower. This now stands with jagged broken roof as a symbol of the destruction of war. Inside there’s a vaulted room with beautiful golden mosaics. Architects’ drafts for rebuilding, with a relatively conventional design, were rejected in the 50’s and a competition for new plans launched. The successful proposal was twofold: a short fat tower and taller skinnier bell tower. The walls of both comprise square units glazed in thick blues and smatterings of red. These are used as building blocks to create the structures. The old church remains are sandwiched between the towers. The new building looks raw and box-like but the walls viewed from within are beautiful.... the congregation is bathed in cobalt coloured light within a simple hall with organ pipes to the rear and a suspended golden crucifix as an altar decoration by a bare table and pulpit.
We shared a pizza and Greek salad for a late lunch at Feri’s, a cosy trattoria over the road from the church. After fifteen minutes I sussed that the moment was ‘Now not Never’ for the musak track to stop repeating (the lyric subconsciously being changed into ‘Just one Cornetto’). As we finished our meal with an espresso an hour later the same song was being cycled over and over again. The balance titled fully from Now to NEVER....... never ever play the song for the next few months is my advice. No one else seemed to notice.
We travelled to Postdamer Plaz, Marion heading for the Resistance Museum and myself to the Musical Instrument Museum. She was not disappointed with well displayed testimony evidencing a strong German resistance to Hitler’s New Socialism well before 1933 and many attempts to overthrow the Nazi machine throughout the war.
I was, conversely, somewhat disappointed. The instruments were housed in a beautiful and spacious building but it lacked joy, life, structure and breadth. There were only four or five punters in (matching the number of staff) but few chances were given to touch or play the instruments. No world, folk or junk instruments to speak of. La Paz’s pokey instrument museum building was packed full of far more interesting instruments. Or e.g. the Sibelius Museum in Turku, Finland, included ethnographical information, huge Russian helicon tubas and background to instrumentation of Finish music through the ages.
The two new gems knowledge about instruments I did take away with me were:
1 Pochette, a fiddle with finger board and bridge the same as conventional violins but with tiny bodies .... designed to be a traveller’s companion. Indeed one was in the form of a walking stick and it transformed into fiddle played with a stored bow. Is this where the expression ‘fiddlesticks’ comes from?
2 An Arpeggione. This looked like a cello with smoothed curves hybridised with a guitar. Also having six strings and frets like a guitar. But the fingerboard and bridge was curved so the instrument can be bowed and broken chords played as accompaniments.
Schubert wrote an arpeggione sonata in 1824!
Evening meal was in Ristorante Sale e Tabacchi, Riv 38 close the Check Point Charlie. It takes its name from an original blue enamelled licence plate that would be displayed at a rivendo shop (No 38) in a big Italian city where there were at least 37 other licensed salt and tobacco shops with prices controlled by the taxman.
I had vongole (clams), Marion had gamberoni ... yum
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